Cooperative Extension employees receive Delaware Award for Heroism

March 18, 2014 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Mark Manno and Doug Crouse awarded for their role in helping to prevent a suicideMark Manno and Doug Crouse of University of Delaware Cooperative Extension have received the Delaware Award for Heroism for their role in helping prevent a suicide at UD’s Paradee Center in Dover in December 2013.

Those in the Paradee Center at the time of the event, Marianna Freilich and Christine Vennard, were also honored for their role in preventing a tragedy.

Manno, state 4-H program leader, explained that with a rash of teen suicides in Kent County last year, Delaware 4-H had held a number of staff training workshops addressing the issue.

“We had done staff training in August on suicide prevention and the science of suicide, and then we joined the Sussex County Health Promotion Coalition to co-host training with guidance counselors, principals and staff from Sussex school districts in early December at the Carvel Center, so we were pretty much in the loop on the issue,” said Manno.

Still, he said, “To have that transpire was difficult and it is fortunate that nothing bad happened.”

When asked how he knew what to do in the situation — a man had entered the Paradee Center in Dover saying he wanted to take his own life — Crouse explained, “Sometimes I just think in life that your human side takes over and I saw a person there that I knew needed help. I feel that just taking the time to talk to someone sometimes can help, and that’s really all I did — I just took the time to start talking to him.”

Both Manno and Crouse, Extension agent and 4-H and youth development director for Kent County, were modest when talking about the award.

We just did what most people would’ve done. We just tried to help the guy. I mean that’s what we do, we help people,” said Manno.

Crouse added, “When it was first mentioned to us that they were going to present us this award, I thought, ‘I didn’t do anything to receive an award.’ I guess someone saw something in this process that they recognized as worthy of recognition so I appreciate that person for taking the time to write up the award but, again, I never did it for the award.”

If there was one thing Crouse wanted people to take away from the story, it is that the human side will always take over and that it is a good thing to help others.

“Every time everyone talks to me about it, I shrug it off like it was no big thing. I guess the main thing I probably have pointed out to people is that it’s OK to help,” said Crouse. “Unfortunately, we live in an environment where we are fearful of so much, but I keep coming back to this — the human side of you takes over and you just feel compelled to help people, and I am that type of person. I will help anybody if I think I can.”

The two have also been invited to a formal statewide recognition program in which they will be recognized by Gov. Jack Markell for their actions.

Article by Adam Thomas

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Seaford’s Sarah Bell wins inaugural 4-H Diamond Clover Award

February 7, 2014 under Cooperative Extension

Sarah Bell wins 4-H Diamond Clover AwardDelaware 4-H has announced that Sarah Bell of Seaford is the first recipient of the Delaware 4-H Diamond Clover Award, the highest honor a 4-H member can earn.

The 4-H Diamond Clover Award is Delaware 4-H’s formal acknowledgment of Bell’s achievement in making a significant difference in the community and state through her “Read to Success Delaware!” project, designed to combat illiteracy.

Delaware 4-H has long acknowledged excellence with blue ribbons, trophies and project pins, and has awarded many scholarships to its 4-H members. However, as the largest youth program in the nation, 4-H did not have a signature capstone award to honor members who demonstrated extraordinary, sustained and focused service learning in their community.

Bell, it turns out, was Delaware 4-H’s diamond in the rough.

Before a crowd of adult 4-H volunteer leaders, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and 4-H staff, family and friends, Bell, a member of the Stateline 4-H Club, was officially presented with the inaugural award on Feb. 1.

“The Boy Scout Eagle is the gold standard of youth awards and it was used as the model for the Diamond Clover,” said Dan Tabler, a retired 4-H agent with a long career in Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia. “As with the Eagle, a very small number of members achieve this ultimate level of recognition.”

Tabler authored the concept and first suggested the Diamond Clover Award idea to his colleagues with Maryland 4-H, where it has become the premiere 4-H award.

To attain the Diamond Clover Award, a 4-H member must progress through several stages. Upon completion, each stage is marked with a gemstone award designation – amethyst, aquamarine, ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond. “The sixth level requires the 4-H member to propose a major community service project that must be approved by a local Diamond Clover Committee and the state 4-H project leader,” said Tabler.

Tabler explained the process is completely voluntary, “but it is something that 4-H members choose to strive for.” At present, the Diamond Clover Award has been adopted in Maryland, Delaware and Nebraska, Tabler said. The Delaware 4-H Foundation sponsored the award for the First State.

At the ceremony, Delaware 4-H program leader Mark Manno described the award process as intense, noting that the final level will likely take more than one year to complete. “It is not a race, it is a journey,” Manno said.

After Bell’s presentation, Manno held up his index finger and acknowledged the power of one. “That’s one 4-H’er. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of youth who are capable of making a difference like Sarah has made,” he said.

Manno told the audience that approximately 80 Delaware 4-H youth are presently working on one of the six levels toward a Diamond Clover Award.

Bell’s project

Bell selected childhood illiteracy as her sustained service-learning project after hearing a presentation from Read Aloud Delaware given at Sussex Tech High School, where she is a member of the Class of 2014. She titled her project “Read to Succeed Delaware!” and through exhaustive research discovered that one in five Delawareans are functionally illiterate.

Bell learned that illiteracy rates could be positively impacted if children are reached at a young age. Her examination of the issue also revealed that families with low income had few or no children’s books in the home, a significant contributor to illiteracy.

Bell conceived a plan to establish a means by which families could obtain free children’s books. She partnered with the Delaware State Service Centers, operated by Delaware’s Division of Health and Human Services.

The centers help families in need with a variety of services. “I thought the idea was perfect. I contacted all the service center administrators in the state and all of them wanted literacy centers,” Bell said. “Their passion for helping people was evident.”

All 15 centers agreed to provide space and a table for reading and obtaining literacy resources. Bell then approached Read Aloud Delaware and pitched the idea to permanently sponsor the literacy centers. They were willing to help, Bell explained, on the condition that she first establish an initial supply of books to serve all 15 centers, as well as create or obtain literacy resources and displays for families visiting the centers.

Bell recruited a team of 12 young people and adults, and began the process of fundraising and establishing book drives throughout her community. Bell also took advantage of valuable contacts within her communities at Delaware 4-H, Delaware Girl Scouts and Gethsemane United Methodist Church. Bell credits them for giving her moral support, agreeing to serve as a book donation site, or donating books or the money to purchase them.

Bell put the donations to efficient use and became a book bargain hunter, finding suitable children’s books for as low as ten cents apiece at yard sales and thrift stores. Her church community led in donations for the approximately 3,000 books needed to get the literacy centers in operation. Read Aloud Delaware now oversees responsibility.

The 15 centers, along with new parents at the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, now have access to bilingual materials that stress the importance of literacy and point to where literary resources are available.

In pursuit of the 4-H Diamond Clover Award, Bell soon realized her ultimate goal was less about the award, than it was about making a lasting difference. “It taught me that I can be capable of leading adults as well as youth, and that I can achieve things that I previously thought were beyond my abilities,” she said.

In addition to 4-H, Bell has received numerous recognitions in the Girl Scouts, is a 2014 recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service, and is active in her school and church organizations.

Bell plans to one day become an elementary school teacher, saying, “I look forward to helping my students achieve high literacy levels so they can become successful learners, which will help them become successful adults.”

Click here to view Bell’s presentation at the award ceremony.

Article by Michele Walfred

Photo by William Campbell for Delaware 4-H

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Delaware 4-H hosts students from Colombia, Ecuador

November 7, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

4-H hosted the 2013 Youth Ambassadors ProgramThe University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H Program recently hosted 24 students and four adults from Colombia and Ecuador as part of the 2013 Youth Ambassadors Program.

The program is funded by Department of State through its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

The participants stayed with host families for three weeks, from Oct. 6-27, and participated in various activities that included visiting historic sites in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, meeting with officials including U.S. Rep. John Carney, visiting Delaware schools, taking in a live showing of the theatrical production Spider-Man: Turn Off the Darkand touring Times Square in New York City.

Mark Manno, Delaware 4-H program leader, said the participants learned a lot about American culture during their stay, perhaps most of all from the host families with whom they stayed. “It was interesting to hear, after they had stayed with host families for awhile, how their opinions changed,” said Manno, noting that a lot of the students came to the country with preconceived notions about the United States and American families.

One participant, Felipe Solano Paute from Ecuador, said, “One of the things that I have learned from this trip is a lot of history about the United States, many things that I didn’t know before, and I have changed the way I think about some aspects of the United States. American people have been very kind and very open to welcome us — and not only our host families but, in general, they have been very kind.”

Colombia’s Luna Sierra said she enjoyed talking with officials, as well as spending time with young people in America. “There is a lot of respect to other people and there is a lot of technology. In America, you have to work hard but you will find success at the end of the road.”

Sierra said that she and her classmates will be “taking with them the best of the American culture.”

Daniel Quinones, also from Colombia, agreed with that assessment, stating that his favorite part of the trip was “the way in which the host families have welcomed us into their homes. They have taught us a lot about how they as a family behave and the family culture.”

The visits to Delaware schools were equally interesting to the students, as Quinones said that he was surprised about how much technology is used in American classrooms.

Manno, who picked up one of the students from St. Elizabeth High School in Wilmington, said, “The kids went to really great schools and they were really impressed. The kids were a huge hit in the schools, especially in the Spanish classes. They loved to have a Spanish speaker there. At the end of the day, I went to St. Elizabeth to pick those kids up and when I got there, there were all these St. Elizabeth kids gathered around them, so they made a lot of friends in a hurry and it was a really good project.”

Manno also pointed out that one of the best experiences the students had was attending a 4-H leadership camp in Sussex County the first weekend they arrived in the United States along with Delaware 4-H members. Manno credited Mallory Vogl, New Castle County 4-H Educator, for putting the camp together.

“We ended up with about 60 kids and it was terrific. Even though we had 7.5 inches of rain in Sussex County that weekend, the kids just bonded. The South American kids got to spend a whole weekend with the Delaware kids, and that was just terrific. They just really hit it off, so I have to give credit to Mallory Vogl for that –she really stepped up,” said Manno.

The experience was equally positive for the adult chaperones who accompanied the students on the trip.

One of the chaperones, Cynthia Orna Ladd from Ecuador, said that while the students visited schools, her host family took her to see Longwood Gardens in nearby Pennsylvania.

Orna Ladd said it was fun to see the reactions of the students as they saw America for the first time, and that she enjoyed spending time with an American family. “I’ve only been in an Ecuadorian family environment but to be with American people, to be part of the family and such is great,” she said. “I’m living with a couple of retired people so they have all the time to talk to me and the mom used to teach home economics, so she cooks very well. I went with them to Longwood Gardens and that was very nice — that’s the thing that I’ve appreciated the most.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

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Argo presented Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award for Sussex County

October 10, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Mary Argo receives the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H awardDelaware 4-H has announced Mary Argo as the 2013 recipient of the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award for Sussex County.

Argo was honored during the Sussex County 4-H annual achievement celebration held Sept. 28 at the University of Delaware’s Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown before an audience of approximately 150 4-H family members and supporters.

Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award winners in New Castle and Kent counties will be announced at later 4-H events.

Argo, who retired in April 2013 as Sussex 4-H educator, was surprised as her name was called and she was asked to come to the stage. In attendance to support her grandchildren in 4-H and to present the Friend of 4-H Award to volunteer leader William Campbell, Argo was continuing her career tradition of happily handing out awards to others. Her arrival on stage to accept the honor was met with a standing ovation.

“This is a surprise. I had not a clue about this,” Argo exclaimed. “I have been very, very jealous of all the people who have gone before who have won this. This is a wonderful, wonderful award. I can’t think of anyone finer to follow than Joy Sparks.”

The Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award was established in 2009 in memory of the Delaware 4-H program leader who died in February of that year. The honor recognizes outstanding achievement in individuals who exhibit dedication, enthusiasm and embody 4-H values. The four H’s of the program represent “head, heart, hands and health,” which members and volunteers pledge to dedicate to their club, community and country through leadership, citizenship and the furtherance of life skills and community service.

Argo’s career began at the University of Delaware 23 years ago, and she spent the last 18 as Sussex County 4-H agent.

One of Argo’s signature events was coordinating the annual 4-H Spring Farm Tours at Green Acres Farm, an event that invites area school children to visit Delaware’s largest dairy farm, which is owned and operated by the Hopkins family of Lewes.

Each year, for two days in May, this valuable partnership welcomes between 1,500 and 2,000 youth who embark on discovery and participate in the sounds, smells and textures offered as lessons in an authentic agricultural experience — oftentimes receiving their first introduction to Cooperative Extension and the University.

With the help of Argo’s colleagues at the Carvel center, tens of thousands of young students have been reached through this one event alone during her tenure as 4-H agent.

Argo was recognized for her belief in the value of personal visits, through which she cultivated many strong community relationships throughout her career.

A particular favorite program Argo initiated was Fridays with 4-H, an after school program at La Casita in Georgetown. Every Friday, Argo introduced 4-H curriculum and experiential learning activities. The outreach program impacted hundreds of Latino youth in Sussex County and was the direct result of Argo’s networking and personal touch in her community.

“All who know Mary never fail to mention her tireless work ethic, positive outlook and enthusiastic dedication to make 4-H available to every child in Delaware,” said Mark Manno, Delaware 4-H program leader, as he read from the nomination. “She has never missed an opportunity to shine the spotlight on an accomplishment of a 4-H youth member or adult volunteer.”

Argo joined 4-H at the age of 10, as an inaugural member of the Broadkill Kool Kats 4-H Club, a club founded by her mother, Frances Millman. As an adult, Argo served as the club’s organizational leader for 12 years.

In 1986, Argo was inducted into the prestigious 4-H alumni organization known as the Sussex County 4-H Order of the Link. Two of Argo’s daughters are currently Delaware 4-H leaders, and 10 of her 11 grandchildren are currently enrolled in Delaware 4-H.

Argo was joined on stage by members of Joy Sparks’ family, brother Alex Gooden and niece Lindsay Gooden Hughes, who presented Argo with the award.

Donald Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair and director of the Delaware Environmental Institute at UD, was not able to join family members at the ceremony but later said, “Mary richly deserves the 2013 Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award. Her numerous contributions to Delaware 4-H will be long lasting. I wish her the very best.”

Article and photo by Michele Walfred

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UD’s Carroll returns to animal care roots at Delaware Humane Association

March 18, 2013 under CANR News

For Patrick Carroll, serving as the executive director of the Delaware Humane Association (DHA) is akin to coming full circle since his days as an undergraduate student majoring in animal science in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

UD Alum Patrick Carroll serves as executive director of Delaware Humane AssociationCarroll started out as a pre-veterinary student before deciding that it just wasn’t for him and transitioned into a career more focused on 4-H and youth development. “I got a work study job with New Castle County 4-H and I kind of fell in love with 4-H and youth development and education, so I wanted to be a 4-H agent,” he said.

Carroll worked with Mark Manno, a Cooperative Extension specialist who he said “really helped me a lot — just gave me great experiences and mentored me, and I really owe my love for 4-H to him.” 

Carroll noted how ironic it is that even though he spent a lot of time working with non-profit organizations and youth development, he still ended up doing what he initially went to college for — working with animals.

Of CANR in general, Carroll said that even though he didn’t end up becoming a vet, he felt that the college helped prepare him by giving him a combination of hands-on experience — working with animals ranging from cows to chickens — and a great classroom atmosphere.

“The thing I love most about CANR is that UD is a big university, so you have the big university feel, but then on the other hand, being in CANR was a more tight-knit and closer community. So I really do think that it’s the best of both worlds. I really enjoyed the faculty and the other students. I had a great experience.”

After UD

After graduating from UD, Carroll went to Penn State where he received a master’s degree in extension education. After a four-year stint in Ohio working with 4-H, Carroll decided to move back East and after working at a few different jobs he was informed about an opening for a development director at the Delaware Humane Association.

“I came here as the development director first in 2006 and I was the development director for four years,” said Carroll. “Then our executive director left and I became the acting director and applied to be the executive director, and so I’ve been the executive director for three years.”

As the executive director, Carroll said that his biggest duties include strategy and fundraising, especially now as DHA prepares to build a new facility. After looking for a new home, DHA decided that the best thing to do was stay where they were and upgrade.

Having raised enough money to do so, the organization plans to break ground on the new facility in the spring, which according to Carroll will be the first new animal shelter built in northern Delaware in a long time.

delhumane6859There are other aspects to Carroll’s job, as well. “We have about 30 employees so there’s a lot of facets — there’s a veterinary facet, there’s a facility, there’s fundraising, there’s animal care,” said Carroll.

As a no kill shelter, something that Carroll said is becoming more common in Delaware, a state which has a strong no-kill movement, DHA can house up to 40 dogs and 100 cats.

Carroll said that they do not like to exceed this number for health reasons. “We’re not huge — some of the other shelters are much bigger than us or they have more animals than they can really house — but we try to be very responsible about housing a number that we can manage for health reasons. If we had more animals than we really should, sickness tends to increase.”

By being a no-kill organization, however, Carroll said that medical costs are high. “That’s a big cost of ours. We’re all about adoption, moving animals forward; we’re not a sanctuary, we don’t want anyone to stay here for a long period of time and the first goal of our mission is to be a temporary shelter.”

As for his favorite part about the job, Carroll said there are many, but he especially loves getting to see all of the new dogs when they first arrive.

“We get dogs in two main ways. We have owner surrenders, which is when someone has to give up a dog for various reasons and we take them in. And the other way is we transfer them from other shelters, mainly from the Kent County SPCA,” explained Carroll.

“We usually bring about 7-8 dogs at a time, and so one of my favorite things is when they get back and we open the van doors and you see all these faces of new dogs. It’s just nice to see them get into our doors and we take good care of them and find them a good home.”

Carroll also said that he enjoys connecting people with a pet and creating a life-long connection that way.

“It isn’t even really in my ‘official’ job description but my favorite part is really linking people to pets. I spend a lot of time with people who are looking for a cat or a dog or they’re referred to me or are my friends or family or people I went to high school with or college or whatever. It has major dividends because it connects people to the organization, and if they have a great experience and they love this dog or this cat they adopted they end up being a supporter and coming to our events and they get it because they’ve experienced it firsthand,” said Carroll.

For more information on DHA, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

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